>>>> Topographical Engineers After Action Report, August 23, 1863, Woodbury, CT ---- “Battle of Chicamauga Creek.” <<<<
Lt. General U. S. Grant
All Federal Armies
Colonel Paul Kenworthy
New England Brigade
Major Greg Webster
Northeast Topographical Engineers (NETE)
Major Don Erickson
U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers
I beg your very kind indulgence to receive my Engineering Report for the above named encampment and battle.
My staff and I left Fort Trumbull by special Army coach early on the morning of August 23, following the coastline until we reached the Connecticut River and then took the road North along the river, turning toward Woodbury, CT which was our destination. We arrived at the Union campground late in the afternoon.
The staff member that I have with me is Lady M. Mathews, who is the lead Logistics Staff, Teamster, and the Unit Treasurer. The weather was warm and bright, and the camping field, was clear, from a probable earlier harvest and still damp from the rains the day before. The encampment was bounded on two sides by the Nonnewaug River, and on one side by an extensive cornfield. The close near side and far side of the river from the encampment grounds were heavily forested in the area between the river and the high road just above it. The top of the encampment was covered with a dirt road, fencing, and another large cornfield. The passage to the Confederate Camp was marked with a temporary bridge and the tent city of Unity was settled in along the right tree-line separating the campground from the corn field. The Sutler’s tents were set up along the dirt road. I will post the maps of the area on the blog as soon as they are completed and copied. Major and Lady Webster arrived and within about an hour the Topographical Field Office was set up and ready for operation. Major Webster then engaged in a preliminary reconnaissance of the Union and Federal encampments on either side of the Nonnewaug River. While engaged in this field survey he also mapped the river fords and bridge site over the river as well as the access road and bridge site into the Union Camp.
My staff member and I had been offered a night’s lodging and an evening meal for Friday and Saturday in the village of Woodbury and we were very glad to take advantage of such after a hard day of travel.
We arrived in camp, early the next morning. The weather was clear and cool. No clouds in the sky with a slight breeze along the river and across the encampment. There had been a heavy dew during the night and the grass and the tents were still heavy with the moisture.
After breakfast, Major Webster then undertook to complete the reconnaissance of the day before by finishing a survey of the river fords and and field sketch of the terrain along the Nonnewaug River. A completed survey will follow.
My first action of the day was to fill out and send in the Topographical Engineers Morning Report, together with Major Webster’s two battlefield sketches for the Brigade Commander’s use, which I had reviewed and approved. Officer’s Call was sounded and Major Webster attended for the engineers. With the arrival of Mr. Goodhue, the first item on the Topog. Plan of the Day was the assignment ceremony for BG, (by brevet) Ian McKay and Fred K. Goodhue. BG Ian McKay received his appointment to Lt. Col. from Lt. General U. S. Grant who has sent the letter along together with the letter of Congressional approval of the proposed permanent rank. Fred K. Goodhue received his documentation as a 2nd Lt of Topographical Engineers (by brevet), his appointment as an Asst. Field Supervisor and various letters of congratulation.
Following the ceremony, Major Webster and Lt Goodhue left the camp for a more detailed reconnaissance of the area and a training exercise for the new Lt. Lt. Goodhue completed a very acceptable field sketch of this survey of the Nonnewaug River with Major Webster’s instruction and assistance.
I was busied putting together a proposed project which would protect the Union Camp from a sneak attack by the Confederate Forces by mining the bridge into the Confederate Camp and sewing the shallow parts of the river bed with caltrops. My proposal was turned down because the Brigade Commander told me the Confederates controlled both the bridge and the river. I then turned to drawing a map of the Union Encampment both for the unit and the mapping files of Lt. Gen. Grant.
Major Webster and Lt. Goodhue returned after an hour or so, and Major Webster assigned Lt. Goodhue to complete a finished, colored, river survey map from his earlier field sketch. Lt. Goodhue was occupied for the remainder of the day drawing a third sketch map of the area that he and the Major had looked over in the morning hours. This task the Lt. completed very satisfactorily. All of these maps will be added to the NETE”s mapping files.
In the mid-morning Master Ray Manzi, the encampment master asked me if I would be willing to narrate for the expected spectators, the two battles that would take place on Saturday. I replied that I should be pleased and honored to do so, and carried out the effort with dispatch on both occasions.
The skirmishes both followed a usual plan or pattern:
--Skirmishers (trained and experience infantry) advanced from both ends of the battlefield. Their purpose was to locate the enemy force if possible and estimate the enemy strength to be provided to the army commanders;
--The skirmish was followed by an Artillery barrage which attempted to “soften up” the enemy and to break up the enemy guns and wagons on the field;
--The main infantry force of each army then entered the field and began volley firing at the enemy force, The skirmishers rejoined their armed forces. Both volley firing and independent firing are used against the enemy forces. The Confederate forces often split their detachment into smaller groups and try to flank the enemy and force him to direct his fire in more than one direction;
--If there is a cavalry unit, it is here that they launch an attack on the opposite forces;
--Both sides push each other until one or the other is reduced to surrender or retreat;
--On occasion, the two force commanders will meet to determine how the battle will end, and then the two sides will leave the field.
During the day there was a steady arrival of spectators wishing to talk with the engineers and review the engineering display. The items of the display which seemed to attract the most attention were the period pistol display and the field fortification models.
Major Webster submitted a plan for the erection of some field fortifications around one of the Union gun emplacements, which I approved. Both the Artillery Commander and the Brigade Commander also approved this work and Major Webster, with some assistance from the artillery staff of the Battery “B”, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, set up the field fortifications. The barrier was designed to slow the attack on the guns by troops or cavalry and consisted of a line of Frazee, and Cheveau Des Frize, protecting the battery emplacement for the one gun. In the early evening my staff and I returned to the inn for supper and a long sleep.
On Sunday morning we got into camp, again at an early hour, and found that Lt. Col. James Duarte had returned from his assigned detachment. He brought with him a letter from Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant requesting that Major Webster construct a pontoon bridge across the Nonnewaug River. The following is the text of the letter:
“Major Greg Webster
Fort Trumbull, CT
I would like to order you to make a pontoon bridge over the Nonnewaug River by Aug. 24, 1863. You have 100 men from my command to do this in the time I ask. It could be done by 50 men from the Army of the West in 1/2 the time;
Very Truly Yours;
Major Webster asked me to draw up the plans for such, and I spent the remainder of the day Sunday making this sketch plan.
Following the afternoon skirmish, the crowds again began to filter through camp for an hour or so, and then the last of them hurried back to the transport buses. The encampment was scheduled to end with the departure of the last of the spectators.
We broke camp, and after leaving the area, we settled on a dinner together with all the Topogs at a local inn which we knew. Ladies Heidi Webster and Margaret Mathews worked very hard in assisting us to set up and take down the Engineers camp. Lt. Col. J. Duarte was also a great help in the camp takedown. Lady Webster also did an excellent job of explaining the Engineering Displays to spectators, when the engineers were otherwise engaged.
After a sumptuous supper Major Webster declared the just past encampment to be an excellent weekend. All present agreed. The encampment was from our point of view outstanding in it’s organization, and its attention to the needs of the unit. Were we as a unit or as individuals invited to another such encampment we would be very pleased to attend.
Ian McKay, BG, CE, TE
Corps Engineer, 25th Corps,
Chief of Staff (acting)
Lt, General U. S. Grant’s Personal and Military Staffs